Way back in I think March, or perhaps February, I picked up a brochure in a church we had a quick look into as we walked by. I’ve been carrying it around in my journal ever since, meaning to read it. So today, I did. It’s a brochure about romance, marriage, and Valentine’s Day from a Roman Catholic point of view. I used to be Catholic, but now I don’t even think of myself as Christian. But you know what they say: Once a Catholic, always a Catholic. I’ve never been sure if it’s a curse or just a statement of fact, or a myth. When you think about it, it probably depends on how that sentence is actually uttered: mockingly, reassuringly, matter of factly. You know what I mean.
Anyway, the brochure. I found it fascinating. Even I can say, healing. It’s about love, so of course the healing potential is there. I was moved by my reading of it, with its description of St Valentine himself, with its advice to people in a marriage, or in long-term relationships.
I am not a big fan of Valentine’s Day, or should I say, I wasn’t? Today may have changed my heart and mind on this. Time will tell. First let me tell you about St Valentine.
Perhaps more of a ‘realistic’ depiction of Valentine?
He was a bishop of the early Christian church in Rome. He was arrested and imprisoned for performing marriages for Roman soldiers who were Christian. In other words, he stood up for love. He said, by his actions, no government can dictate who loves who, who can marry whom. Love is love, is what he said. My kind of guy.
Anyway, while he was in prison he became friendly with his jailer, and healed his daughter. I have no idea what she was cured of, but guess how he signed a letter he wrote to her just before they chopped off his head (on 14 February 269AD)?
From your Valentine
Sound familiar? Such stories I love. Anyway, that day (his feast day: he was made a saint automatically as he’d died a martyr for his church) became a popular day of celebration for engaged couples in the 18th Century, which lead to the production of greeting cards that became known as Valentine’s Day cards (a bit of a chicken or the egg story this one: did some wily entrepreneur come up with the idea to sell cards, or did public demand force the issue? Interesting, yes?). St Valentine is the patron saint of engaged couples, happy marriages and, for reasons I am not able to clarify, epileptics, travellers and bee keepers.
While old Valentine is pretty interesting, I want to get to the brochure. As I said, it is about relationships, more specifically keeping the romance and mystery alive in a marriage. It begins talking about the excitement and mystery that accompanies a new romantic relationship: Is she/he the one? Are they really interested in me? The brochure says the suspense is both thrilling and invigorating. Doesn’t mention terrifying, but maybe that’s another story. Anyway, allow me to quote one paragraph in full, which for me really does encapsulate what I am getting at here.
This initial thrill is the stuff of movies and music and is an intoxicating experience. Yet it is also very limited. It captures nothing of the magnificence of a couple’s devotion which has stayed strong over the decades and matured into a love that can be truly relied upon.
Of course, not all our beloved readers will have had a ‘decades’ long’ love, but don’t worry, you will. This devotion, this deep love is a thing we could almost call divine; it’s a spiritual thing that comes from the inner most part of us. A phrase that occurs to me is it’s as if it’s not of this world: it is a thing beyond words, beyond everyday experience.
This type of love depends on more than the romantic feelings that come from ‘falling in love’ Of course it begins there, with the falling (maybe that should be changed to rising?) but it requires action; a deliberate, wilful, and intentional loving. That sounds very much like the meme: love is a verb we’ve all most likely seen.
The brochure then addresses itself to the notion of keeping and nurturing this love over the long term. It chooses to place an emphasis on mystery: the mystery we are all to each other; the mystery of the first meeting, falling in love, learning about each other. But not everything about each other. In essence, it says that unless there is at least a little mystery, then we will fail to connect to that divine love I referred to earlier. We will lose interest, or things will go stale. I know that you know exactly what I am talking about; it happens to us all in any relationship.
Right at the back of this little brochure there is a section headed Rekindling the Romance. No, it’s not about buying a new bed, or going on a romantic getaway or anything like that. This is why I liked what I read so much; just down to earth, loving advice for all of us.
1 Hear the Mystery
Share with each other a cherished hope you have for your future. Listen carefully to each other. Don’t hurry this: take time to really let the other’s hope be fully revealed (Note from me: Don’t assume you both have the same hopes).
2 See the Mystery
Make time to watch each other at work or play. Look into each other’s eyes with love and acceptance. Try holding your gaze for five minutes using only your eyes to communicate your openness (Note from me: If you’ve ever tried this you will know it’s not easy. Mind you it can make you laugh. That’s got to be a good thing!)
3 Speak the Mystery
Express your wonder and gratitude for all that the other is in your life (Another note from me: This says is in your life, not what the other has done for you). Express it to each other; express it to your family, and to your friends. Become your lover’s cheer squad and advocate.
Nice, isn’t it? Why am I sharing all this on our Journey of Healing blog? Well, I think I sort of alluded to it when I said earlier that love is healing (or something like that). For me simply reading that brochure today (finally, after carrying it around for so long) was a healing all by itself. Now, let me just suggest to Pauline that we stare into each other’s eyes for five minutes. Wish me luck!